Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

Neurologic Disorders among Pediatric Deaths Associated with the 2009 Pandemic Influenza

Parent talking with physician

Pediatrics has published a new study: “Neurologic Disorders among Pediatric Deaths Associated with the 2009 Pandemic Influenza, 2012.” You can read the article here. See below for a summary of the findings from this article.

Main Findings from This Study:

The study found that a large percentage of children dying from flu-related causes have neurologic disorders. Flu is particularly dangerous for people who may have trouble with muscle function, lung function or difficulty coughing, swallowing or clearing fluids from their airways. Children with neurologic disorders are also at high risk of developing influenza-associated complications such as pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

About this Study:

What is currently known on this subject?

The 2009 influenza A (H1N1) pandemic caused illness in all age groups, but children were disproportionately affected. Children with underlying neurologic disorders were at high risk of influenza-related complications, including death.

What does this study add?

This study provides the first detailed description of underlying neurologic disorders among children who died of influenza A (H1N1) virus infection.

What were the study results?

The Pediatrics study looks at 2009 H1N1 influenza-related deaths in children based on data submitted to CDC from U.S. state and local health departments during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Of the 336 children—defined as people younger than 18—reported to have died from 2009 H1N1 flu-associated causes, 227 had an underlying health condition. Among those children, 64% had a neurologic or neurodevelopmental disorder like cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, or epilepsy.

What does this mean?

Prompt treatment for suspected or confirmed flu, even without testing, is critical for children with neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders. CDC recommends that everyone get an annual influenza vaccination, including people who are at high risk of developing serious complications. Flu vaccine is never 100% effective, but it is the best prevention method available. Antiviral drugs are a second line of defense against flu. Antiviral drugs work best against flu if they are given early in the course of illness, specifically within 48 hours of symptom onset.

Preventing Flu Deaths in Children: CDC’s Activities

CDC is partnering with organizations working to coordinate communication activities with their constituents, which include parents and caregivers, primary care clinicians, developmental pediatricians, and neurologists, in hopes to increase awareness about flu prevention and treatment in children with neurodevelopmental and neuromuscular conditions.

Communication and educational activities have been planned to reach clinicians and caregivers. These include:

  • Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity (COCA) webinar on September 27.
  • a live Twitter chat for parents and caregivers with health professionals from CDC, AAP, Family Voices and Families Fighting Flu on September 18. To join the live chat, follow the #CDCFluChat hashtag on Twitter.
  • a CDC “Have You Heard” article on
  • a CDC podcast.

To learn more about influenza and how to protect yourself and others from illness, please visit

  • Blanton L, Peacock G, Cox C, Jhung M, Finelli L, Moore C. (2012) Neurologic disorders among pediatric deaths associated with the 2009 pandemic influenza. Pediatrics, 130, 390-96.